Quotations about   socialism

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Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another. And they want that world as a first step. Where they go from there is not so certain, and the attempt to foresee it in detail merely confuses the issue.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Can Socialists Be Happy?” Tribune (20 Dec 1943) [as John Freeman]
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Added on 7-Jul-21 | Last updated 7-Jul-21
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Except for the field organizers of strikes, who were pretty tough monkeys and devoted, most of the so-called Communists I met were middle-class, middle-aged people playing a game of dreams. I remember a woman in easy circumstances saying to another even more affluent: “After the revolution even we will have more, won’t we, dear?” Then there was another lover of proletarians who used to raise hell with Sunday picnickers on her property.

I guess the trouble was that we didn’t have any self-admitted proletarians. Everyone was a temporarily embarrassed capitalist. Maybe the Communists so closely questioned by the investigation committees were a danger to America, but the ones I knew — at least they claimed to be Communists — couldn’t have disrupted a Sunday-school picnic. Besides they were too busy fighting among themselves.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
“A Primer on the ’30s,” Esquire (1 Jun 1960)
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Collected in American and Americans (1966).

A portion of this was paraphrased in Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress (2004): "John Steinbeck once said that socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." That paraphrase has, in turn, been frequently cited as a direct quotation of Steinbeck.
Added on 14-Apr-21 | Last updated 20-Apr-21
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But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Herbert Spencer Lecture, Oxford (Nov 1963)
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Reprinted in Harpers (Nov 1964).
Added on 9-Dec-20 | Last updated 9-Dec-20
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The American People will take Socialism, but they won’t take the label. I certainly proved it in the case of EPIC. Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to “End Poverty in California” I got 879,000. I think we simply have to recognize the fact that our enemies have succeeded in spreading the Big Lie. There is no use attacking it by a front attack, it is much better to out-flank them.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
Letter to Norman Thomas (25 Sep 1951)
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Added on 30-Jul-20 | Last updated 30-Jul-20
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The important thing for Government is not to do things which individuals are doing already, and to do them a little better or a little worse; but to do those things which at present are not done at all.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
The End of Laissez-Faire, Part 4 (1926)
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Taft explained that the great issue in this campaign is “creeping socialism.” Now that is the patented trademark of the special interest lobbies.

Socialism is a scare word they have hurled a every advance the people have made in the last twenty years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called Social Security. Socialism is what they called farm prices supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.

Harry S Truman (1884-1972) US President (1945-1953)
Speech, Syracuse, New York (10 Oct 1952)
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Added on 16-Aug-19 | Last updated 10-Aug-21
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When I put a question to him about socialism in agriculture, he explained with glee how he had incited the poorer peasants against the richer ones, “and they soon hanged them from the nearest tree — ha! ha! ha!” His guffaw at the thought of those massacred made my blood run cold.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Unpopular Essays, “Eminent Men I Have Known” (1950)

Referring to an 1920 interview in Moscow with V. Lenin.
Added on 16-May-17 | Last updated 16-May-17
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The urge to distribute wealth equally, and still more the belief that it can be brought about by political action, is the most dangerous of all popular emotions. It is the legitimation of envy, of all the deadly sins the one which a stable society based on consensus should fear the most. The monster state is a source of many evils; but it is, above all, an engine of envy.

Paul Johnson (b. 1928) English journalist, historian, speechwriter, author
The Recovery of Freedom (1980)
Added on 11-Apr-17 | Last updated 11-Apr-17
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It is not private ownership, but private ownership divorced from work, which is corrupting to the principle of industry; and the idea of some socialists that private property in land or capital is necessarily mischievous is a piece of scholastic pedantry as absurd as that of those conservatives who would invest all property with some kind of mysterious sanctity.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
The Acquisitive Century, ch. 5 “The Functional Society” (1920)
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Added on 16-Mar-17 | Last updated 16-Mar-17
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Revolutions, as a long and bitter experience reveals, are apt to take their colour from the régime which they overthrow. Is it any wonder that the creed which affirms the absolute rights of property should sometimes be met with a counter-affirmation of the absolute rights of labour, less anti-social, indeed, and inhuman, but almost as dogmatic, almost as intolerant and thoughtless as itself.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
The Acquisitive Century, ch. 3 “The Acquisitive Society” (1920)
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Added on 19-Jan-17 | Last updated 19-Jan-17
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By concentrating on what is good in people, by appealing to their idealism and their sense of justice, and by asking them to put their faith in the future, socialists put themselves at a severe disadvantage.

Ian McEwan (b. 1948) English novelist and screenwriter
City Limits (London, May 27, 1983)
Added on 16-Aug-16 | Last updated 16-Aug-16
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We have passed beyond the time of what they call the laisser-faire school which believes that the Government ought to do nothing but run a police force.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) US President (1909-13) and Chief Justice (1921-1930)
Speech, Milwaukee (17 Sep 1909)
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Added on 24-Aug-15 | Last updated 24-Aug-15
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We believe in a single fundamental idea that describes better than most textbooks and any speech that I could write what a proper government should be: the idea of family, mutuality, the sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all, feeling one another’s pain, sharing one another’s blessings — reasonably, honestly, fairly, without respect to race, or sex, or geography, or political affiliation.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
Commencement Address, Iona College (3 Jun 1984)
Added on 22-Jun-15 | Last updated 22-Jun-15
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The first and highest form of the state and of the government and of the law is that which there prevails most widely the ancient saying, that “Friends have all things in common.”

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
Plato, Laws, 5.739 [tr. Jowett (1894)]
Added on 4-Jun-14 | Last updated 4-Jun-14
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Sir, there is one Mrs. Macaulay in this town, a great republican. One day when I was at her house, I put on a very grave countenance, and said to her, “Madam, I am now become a convert to your way of thinking. I am convinced that all mankind are upon an equal footing; and to give you an unquestionable proof, Madam, that I am in earnest, here is a very sensible, civil, well-behaved fellow-citizen, your footman; I desire that he may be allowed to sit down and dine with us.” I thus, Sir, shewed her the absurdity of the levelling doctrine. She has never liked me since. Sir, your levellers wish to level down as far as themselves; but they cannot bear levelling up to themselves.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (12 Jul 1763)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
Added on 28-Feb-14 | Last updated 28-Feb-14
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It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interests. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantage. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens. Even a beggar does not depend upon it entirely.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) Scottish economist
The Wealth of Nations, 1.2 (1776)
Added on 25-Feb-14 | Last updated 25-Feb-14
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All skill ought to be exerted for universal good; every man has owed much to others, and ought to repay the kindness that he has received.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, ch. 6 (1759)
Added on 21-Feb-14 | Last updated 13-Oct-14
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We Americans live in a nation where the medical-care system is second to no one in the world, unless you count maybe 25 or 30 little scuzzball countries like Scotland that we could vaporize in seconds if we felt like it.

Dave Barry (b. 1947) American humorist
Stay Fit and Healthy Until You’re Dead (1985)
Added on 19-Feb-14 | Last updated 19-Feb-14
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Furthering the common good does not require that we forego self-interest, but rather that we are able to see our own interests linked to those of others. It requires a society that enables citizens to express the very human need to act on our deepest values as well as on our private interests.

Frances Moore Lappé (b. 1944) American writer, activist
Rediscovering America’s Values, ch. 6 “Summing Up the Dialogue” (1989)
Added on 28-Jan-14 | Last updated 28-Jan-14
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The chief difference between free capitalism and State socialism seems to be this: that under the former a man pursues his own advantage openly, frankly, and honestly, whereas under the latter he does so hypocritically and under false pretences.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks, #397 (1956)
Added on 15-Jan-09 | Last updated 2-May-16
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The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
Speech, House of Commons (22 Oct 1945)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 25-Sep-20
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